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Monday, July 22nd, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 46

Kingcomments on the Whole BibleKingcomments

Verses 1-3


After the Messiah has appeared in the previous psalm, in this psalm and the next two psalms the complaint of the remnant turns into a giving of thanks. God is their refuge. The voice of the enemy, which at first had said scornfully, ‘where is your God?’ is silenced. Peace flows like a river, with no chance of disturbing it, because the weapons have been rendered useless.

We see the enemy in this psalm in three forms:
1. The force of nature (Psalms 46:1-Leviticus :).
2. The political violence (Psalms 46:4-Judges :).
3. The violence of war (Psalms 46:8-1 Kings :).
In this we have at the same time a division of the psalm. The threefold division is supported by a triple ‘selah’ (Psalms 46:3; Psalms 46:7Psalms 46:11) and a (not complete) refrain (Psalms 46:7 and Psalms 46:11).

This psalm is for Israel itself, which is evident from the expression “our” in Psalms 46:1, Psalms 46:7 and Psalms 46:11. “The LORD … is with us (or for us)” (Psalms 46:11) is the Name of Christ for His own: Immanuel, which means “God with us”.

God Is a Refuge, Strength and Help

For “for the choir director” (Psalms 46:1) see at Psalm 4:1.

For “of the sons of Korah” see at Psalm 42:1.

The psalm is “set to Alamoth”. The word almah, the singular of “alamoth”, is used for ‘virgin’ in Isaiah 7: “Behold, a virgin will be with child” (Isaiah 7:14). The idea is similar to the song on the occasion of the redemption from Egypt. Miriam praises the LORD with all the women – so it is a female choir (Exodus 15:20) – because of the redemption. The sons of Korah do the same here. They sing of redemption.

In 1 Chronicles 15, in the section about the singers, the word “Alamoth” also occurs. There is talk of two kinds of pitches there (1 Chronicles 15:20-Ecclesiastes :). As indicated above, this word is related to the word “virgins. Hence the idea that the pitch is ‘high tuned’, that of the soprano. We could also say that this song was written to be sung by girls (soprano).

That God is a refuge means that He Himself is a place of protection for His own from danger (Psalms 46:1). This points to His presence with them. He is Immanuel, God with us. They may flee to Him and hide with Him. He takes upon Himself their defense, for besides protection, He is also their strength against the enemy. In this way God has often shown His help in the distresses in which His own have found themselves.

God is a “refuge and strength” and “a very present help” (or support, assistance) for His own. This idea is reinforced in Psalms 46:7 and Psalms 46:11 by the phrase “stronghold”. This formidable God is “the LORD of hosts”, the warrior name of God, by which He is mentioned in those verses.

Trouble is anything that can happen to us that makes us anxious or sad. He has proved to be “a very present” help in every trouble, enabling us to rely on Him for any new situation in which we need His help. He is always available and always helps at the right time and in the right way (cf. Hebrews 4:16).

If faith firmly holds that God is a refuge, strength and help, it will banish all fear from the heart (Psalms 46:2). In Psalms 46:1-Leviticus :, the psalmist speaks of the coming of God to judge. When God appears, it is accompanied by impressive natural phenomena, such as earthquake and storm (cf. Psalms 18:7-:; Exodus 19:16-Job :; Isaiah 64:1-Leviticus :).

How frightened a person can become by natural disasters (Luke 21:25-Ezekiel :). If the earth were to change location, we would lose all orientation. And suppose the mountains were moved to the heart of the seas. It would mean an end to all stability on earth. But those who have God as their refuge retain their orientation and stability.

The waters of the seas can roar and foam, causing fear (Psalms 46:3). The mountains may quake because of the swelling pride of the waters. But the believer is not afraid, for He is with God in a stronghold. We can think of the waters of the seas as hostile nations and the mountains as political systems of power. They can be so rampant that all orientation and stability disappears from society.

Hezekiah saw this in his days when the land was overrun by the armies of Assyria. Assyria is the disciplinary rod of God for His people (Isaiah 10:5). We too, as His people, have to deal with the disciplinary rod of God. We have deviated as a whole and He wants to bring us back to His way by His discipline. The question is whether we recognize His discipline and what our response to it is (cf. Amos 4:6-2 Kings :).

Verses 4-7

God Is a Stronghold

The judgments of God have been like a mighty flood (cf. Isaiah 8:7-Ruth :). Now rest has come. This is portrayed in Psalms 46:4. In contrast to the furious rushing of the seas “there is a river whose streams make glad the city of God”. “Streams” is literally “branches”, that is, channels and streams that are tributaries to the great river.

“The city of God” one of the titles of Jerusalem (Psalms 48:1; Psalms 87:3). “The city of God” is a superlative in Hebrew. Nineveh is literally called a great city of God in Jonah 3, which NASB translates as “an exceedingly great city” (Jonah 3:3).

The raging waters are calmed down in “the city of God”, as it were, by Him Who dwells there (cf. Luke 8:22-Lamentations :). Jerusalem therefore resembles a second paradise (cf. Genesis 2:10-2 Chronicles :; Isaiah 51:3; Ezekiel 36:35). The river reminds us of the river that goes out from the throne of God in the heavenly Jerusalem (Revelation 22:1; cf. Ezekiel 47:1-2 Kings :; Joel 3:18; Zechariah 14:8).

It is not a literal river, but it is peace, flowing, as it were, like a river through the city (cf. Isaiah 48:18). Unlike, say, the Nile, Jerusalem does not have a literally branched river. A branched river speaks of abundance and fertility (irrigation), in this case not of water but of peace. Then Jerusalem will finally be truthfully according to the meaning of its name a city of peace. Because of the river of peace, there is an invigorating gladness in the city of God.

It is the city of God because “the dwelling places of the Most High” are there (cf. Psalms 76:1-Exodus :). By “dwelling places” we can think of the holy place and the holy of holies. The name “Most High” is the Name of God in connection with the realm of peace (cf. Genesis 14:18-Jeremiah :).

It is a special encouragement to the sons of Korah to know that “God is in the midst of her” (Psalms 46:5; cf. Isaiah 12:6; Zephaniah 3:17). Then Jerusalem is truthfully “the place which the LORD your God will choose from all your tribes, to establish His name there for His dwelling” (Deuteronomy 12:5; Deuteronomy 12:11Deuteronomy 12:14; Deuteronomy 12:18Deuteronomy 12:21; Deuteronomy 12:26). This also makes the city the city of God. Here the thirst of the soul of the God-fearing for God, for the living God, is quenched (Psalms 42:1-Exodus :).

The church that gathers around the Lord Jesus can also say that He is in her midst. Only through His presence a local church is a dwelling place of God (Matthew 18:20). The Korahites, by their run out of Israel, were distanced from the sanctuary, but not from the God of the sanctuary. Because of their sight of the Messiah in the previous psalm, it is as if they are reimbursed for the lack of the temple in seeing Him Who dwells there.

Because God is in her midst, “she will not be moved”. “God will help her” in the battle against overpowering enemies. This occurs “when morning dawns” (cf. Exodus 14:24; Isaiah 37:36). His help consists in judging the enemies of His people, after which “a morning without clouds” (2 Samuel 23:4), that is, the realm of peace, will dawn. Then “the sun of righteousness” (Malachi 4:2), that is the Lord Jesus, will rise.

Against the roaring nations and the tottering kingdoms, God makes His voice heard (Psalms 46:6). God does not use His hand here, but the sword from His mouth, His voice (cf. Psalms 2:4-Deuteronomy :; Revelation 19:15). He spoke once, and then everything came into being (Psalms 33:6; Psalms 33:9). When He speaks in judgment, the earth melts away. Such is the power of His voice, impressively described in Psalm 29 (cf. Psalms 29:3-1 Samuel :).

In the face of the roaring nations and the tottering kingdoms, faith places “the LORD of hosts” (Psalms 46:7). The enemies do not see Him, but the impotent believing remnant looks by faith upon Him, Who is the Commander of all the hosts (cf. 2 Kings 6:14-Esther :). They now speak of God as “the LORD”, which is the name of God in connection with His covenant. He is “the LORD of hosts”, which is His mighty warrior name.

At the same time, He is “the God of Jacob”, the God Who in grace helps the failing, helpless Jacob when he is in need. In Jacob being in trouble, we see the faithful remnant of Israel in the “time of distress for Jacob” (Jeremiah 30:7). When the nations and kingdoms surround and oppress them, they will have “a stronghold” in Immanuel, God with us. As a result, they will be untouchable from the enemies.

Verses 8-11

God Causes Wars to Cease

The psalmist calls for us to “come” and “behold the works of the LORD” (Psalms 46:8). “Behold” means to ponder, resulting in the abandonment of resistance to God followed by wise action. It is about looking over the battlefield. There lie the defeated enemies as the result of His actions (cf. Isaiah 37:36). Because of the great tribulation, He “has wrought desolations in the earth”, the results of which will be visible (Isaiah 66:23-Jeremiah :). As the stone loosened without the intervention of human hands, He has destroyed the statue of states representing the world’s empires (Daniel 2:44-Romans :; cf. Isaiah 34:2-Numbers :). When that time comes, the time of judgment will be over.

In bringing about His destructions, the LORD has caused the wars to cease “to the end of the earth” (Psalms 46:9; Zechariah 9:10). The Prince of peace is seated on the throne in Jerusalem. The time of peace has come. What meetings and conferences of whatever powerful rulers have never been able to accomplish, He has brought about: world peace.

He has also brought about total disarmament, something governments have always tried to achieve. They never succeeded because they did so on the basis of a misplaced trust in man. Through the Lord Jesus, all military means are broken or shattered and turned into useful instruments (Isaiah 2:4; Micah 4:3). He has burned “the chariots with fire” and thus rendered useless (Isaiah 9:4; cf. Ezekiel 39:9). They are also no longer required.

To this perspective God attaches the message for man to cease his efforts to arrange things himself (Psalms 46:10). He must give up in the realization that he is only a man and that God alone is God. Man must stop thinking in his pride that he can contribute anything to world peace, let alone work it out. Any attempt by man to do so is a denial of the existence and government of God.

God is the Only One Who will be praised among the nations and on the earth. The knowledge that He is God must not be merely an intellectual knowing. It must lead to entrusting oneself to Him (Psalms 46:11), that you take refuge in Him, that He is your stronghold.

Whatever may befall believers, whatever opposition they may experience, they can confidently say that “the LORD of hosts” is with them (Romans 8:31-Malachi :). The Captain of all the earthly and heavenly hosts, both good and evil, is with them. Why then and for what will they still fear? Added to that, they may know that “the God of Jacob” is “a stronghold” for them. The name “Jacob” refers to the people in their weakness. But if God is their stronghold, it means that they are untouchable, for who can do anything against Him?

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Psalms 46". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/psalms-46.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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